Annual anti-stress festival activities ease the pressure of exam week

Annual anti-stress festival activities ease the pressure of exam week

The week of December 5, William Beaumont School of Medicine at Oakland University hosted its annual De-Stress Fest, a week of events designed to help medical students decompress during finals week.

The list of anti-stress activities available in the student lounge included stress balls, puzzles, rock painting, sheet masks, and more. Students enjoyed free coffee, muffins, smoothies, infused water, popcorn and donuts throughout the week.

Josh Cabarrus, M2, enjoyed a student favorite: a free chair massage. He is a fan of massages, back after an extraordinary experience last year.

“I swear I left this planet, it felt so good,” he said. “I can’t wait to get off the planet this year.”

For David Howell, M2, managing stress is about keeping an eye on the 8 ball, a tradition he’s been carrying on since his first year of medical school.

“I would come in when I couldn’t think anymore and just let my brain think about things without really looking at books,” Howell said. “The pool is definitely a lifesaver.”

So on December 9, the day of his last finals, Howell stopped by the student lounge to relax after all his exams and win several games of pool.

An image of an OUWB student playing pool
Howell plays pool in the student lounge, part of how he decompresses while studying.

“If you don’t have something you’re looking forward to, (exams) can really start to wear you down,” he said.

For medical students, stress is unavoidable, but Cabarrus said he thinks there are different possible forms of stress.

“I think as a medical student, stress can be either your best friend or your worst enemy,” Cabarrus said. “When it comes to Finals week, a number of things exacerbate your stress, and stress starts to become your worst enemy.”

Meaghan Race, M2, said she finds De-Stress Fest an important reminder to take a break.

“I think as medical students, we don’t do a great job of managing our stress sometimes and taking time for ourselves,” she said. “So having a de-stress week in place at school was very helpful in alleviating stress during finals.”

Much like setting up the final hit on the cue ball, end-of-semester stress management is all about ensuring proper alignment.

The science behind stress relief

“When we’re in a state of high alert or high stress for a long time and our adrenaline surges, the sympathetic nervous system kicks in,” said Janae Kinn, OUWB medical student mental health counselor. . “We’re basically going into a fight, flight, or freeze response.”

When that happens, Kinn said, it becomes difficult to think rationally, and that’s when Kinn sees the most students walk into his office.

To help relieve stress, the parasympathetic nervous system must be activated.

“We can activate the parasympathetic nervous system in many ways,” Kinn said. “Some of the activities we’ve done in the past were things where you had to put your phone down and use your hands. So we had a slime-making station, which I really like because you engage all of your senses. .

“Not only does it help distract you from what’s going on at school, but you have to be engaged,” she said. “It engages your senses a lot, and I think it helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system.”

One of the benefits of De-Stress Fest activities, Kinn said, is that the activities don’t take a lot of time — many stress-busting activities allowed students to take a short break or pick up items and leave to allow them to manage their time during finals week in a way that suits them.

Another benefit of the activities, she said, is that they are also things students can do on their own. If the activities suit them, they can be implemented throughout the semester as a preventive measure.

“A lot of these things are things that students can do when they’re not going through such a high level of stress to avoid getting to that high a stress level,” Kinn said.

“We all know med school is stressful, so the goal isn’t to be stress-free,” Kinn said. “The goal is to be able to handle stress.”

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